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Here’s what you need to know in the world of Orlando theme-park news for the week of May 24-30, 2021.
1. You don’t have to wait until June 10 to visit Jurassic World – the Tribute Store is now open! Just as VelociCoaster is set within the fictitious theme park on the lovely Isla Nublar, so, too, is Universal Orlando’s newest retail experience, allowing you to explore VelociCoaster’s Control Room, the raptor paddock, Jurassic Park’s abandoned lab, and a “Gentle Giants” feeding area (which doubles as the store’s collection of sweet treats and drinks). It’s all highly themed and fully immersive, filled to the brim with Easter eggs and exclusive merchandise (including two brand-new collections only available at Universal).
Dive into the detailed experience here.
2. The Tribute Store wasn’t the only opening that Universal Studios Florida saw this past week – there was also DreamWorks Destination. The new character meet-‘n-greet sees two sets of three DreamWorks personalities come bounding out on a circular stage, where they do some dance routines with a couple of human counterparts and periodically pose for photos for the audience. In the background, pictures of the cinematic stars are hung, along with a small homage or two to the animation studio’s iconic logo, which involves a little boy fishing off of a crescent moon. It already seems to be a hit with younger guests, and it helps to fill the void that A Day in the Park with Barney left behind when it closed earlier this year.
Find more about DreamWorks Destination here.
3. The Olympics started to arrive a little early at Universal Orlando last week. First, on Wednesday, mysterious food tents popped up next to Universal Music Plaza with some Olympic décor nearby; the next day, giant banners celebrating the games appeared over the giant stage. Finally, on Friday, the food stands were open for business, serving up some delicious-looking Japanese dishes, including sushi, rice bowls, and takoyaki (a specialty from Osaka rather than Tokyo, where the Olympics will be held starting on July 23 – but we’ll take it, anyway!).
4. Hot Butterbeer is now here year-round! This delectable version of the famous drink, which has become many guests’ preferred way to imbibe, originally debuted at Universal Orlando in January 2014. Unfortunately for witches and muggles alike, it would remain a seasonal offering exclusively for the next seven years, despite Universal occasionally teasing that it would attain permanent status (like it did pretty much instantly over at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter). All that doesn’t matter now, however, as – from here on out – it’ll be available whenever thirsty visitors want a hot sip.
Learn all about Butterbeer’s history, along with its many forms, here.
5. We’ve been talking a lot about Universal returning to normal these past few weeks, and this one will be no different. Starting yesterday, all guests who have been fully vaccinated (that means waiting two weeks after your last shot) will no longer be required to wear face coverings anywhere on Universal Orlando Resort property, from the hotels to inside the attractions.
We first shared the breaking news here.
6. Speaking of recovering from the pandemic, Universal has been on a hiring spree, looking to add thousands – yes, thousands – of full- and part-time team members all across its resort, from food services to aquatics (that means lifeguards). This is old news. What’s new as of last week is the fact that the company will give its biggest raise in its Orlando history, beginning with its starting rate, which will be bumped up from $13 an hour to $15 on June 27. (That makes the resort the first “major” one in Orlando to do so.) Some 18,000 pre-existing workers will also be getting an increase, based on “the new rates and their time with the company.”
See the news here.
7. Finally, a quick note: things around Orlando Informer HQ will be a bit on the hectic side next weekend, requiring us to step out of the office for a bit. As such, we’re sorry to say, there won’t be a weekly recap going out next Sunday. We apologize for the absence, but we’re looking forward to seeing you guys really soon.
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